The Midleton and Cloyne Tramway, 1884

Lartigue Rail, Ballybunion, Co. Kerry (National Library of Ireland)

Lartigue Rail, Ballybunion, Co. Kerry (Ref: LROY 4275, National Library of Ireland)

In the mid-1880s proposals were being put forward for the construction of a tramway between Midleton and Cloyne under the Tramways Act. While many local business people seem to have been in favour of the scheme, there was also considerable opposition to it, as it would have led to an increase in rates. The latter would appear to have won out. There were a number of newspaper articles about these proposals in 1884. One in particular provides some detailed information on both population and trade in Midleton, Ballinacurra, Cloyne and Ballycotton, and is worthy of reproduction in full here. It recounts evidence that was provided in support of and in opposition to the scheme, and gives a fascinating insight into certain aspects of life in the area; how important Ballinacurra was as a port, the size of the fishing population in Ballycotton, and the population difference in the 1880s between Cloyne and Midleton.


Mr. Atkinson, QC (for the promoters), stated that this was an application for the construction of a tramway between Midleton and Cloyne, to run about seven miles. The project was promoted by a number of local gentlemen, including Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald, Dr. Reardon, & c., and it was stated that £16,000 of the capital had been placed locally in case of the line not paying. Only a sum of some 7d or 8d in the £1 would fall on the barony which would be taxed. As an instance of the popularity of the line he might mention that every elected Poor-aw guardian was in favour of it. The Government had made a proposal to grant a sum of £16,000 for the construction of a new pier at Ballycotton, on condition of a sum of £4,000 being subscribed locally. this £4,000 was forthcoming, and with the construction of the pier the fishing there would be greatly developed, and a large traffic would result from it.

Mr. Savage French deposed that he was a promoter of the line in question. The population of Midleton last census was 308, and there were a large number of good business houses there. It was proposed to have sidings connecting the premises of the Cork Distillery Company, several business stores and mills, and the gas company, with the main line. At Ballinacurra the line would run down to the pier. He estimated the imports at 21,400 tons to Ballinacurra, which estimate did not include the private lighter trade. The seaboard traffic–inward and outward–was represented at something over 40,000 tons. This traffic principally went to Midleton. The population of Cloyne was 11,026. Cloyne was six miles from Ahadagh, and five from Midleton Railway Station. Between Ballinacurra and Cloyne the traffic would likely be 14,000 tons, which would be in addition to the other traffic referred to. At Ballycotton there were 147 men and some forty boys engaged in fishing and their fish traffic would be very large. The new pier would greatly develop the fish traffic. Witness had made an estimate as regards the passenger traffic, and he had put down the number as 3,000 passengers a year. Calculating this at 6d a head it would come to about £2 per day. The line would enable the buyers to come to the farmers for their corn. A sum of £1,500 had been already taken up locally. He confessed there was a good deal of opposition.

Cross-examined by Mr. Roche–He had himself entered five hundred of the fifteen hundred pounds he spoke of. He was aware of the fact that the grand jury of county Cork had held two meetings in regard to the question of this guarantee. At the first meeting a resolution was passed to the effect that the line was approved, subject to the promoters giving a ten years’ guarantee. At the second meeting, held some days subsequently, this requirement was passed over, and the line approved of.

The Lord Chancellor remarked that there was nothing extraordinary in this. The grand jurors had thought at first that they could better secure matters by requiring such a guarantee, but, finding that they could not legally exact this, they had given up the idea.

Mr. Connolly, Harbour Master, Ballinacurra, gave evidence regarding the imports and exports at his harbour.

Mr. James Penrose Fitzgerald, agent to Lord Midleton and to his brother, Mr. R U Penrose Fitzgerald, a director of the company, gave evidence in support of the proposal.

Mr. Murphy and Mr. Daniel Cronan, residing in the district, also gave evidence.

Mr. Custian, publican, explained that the estimate of trade traffic was framed on statistics supplied at a meeting of the traders of Cloyne specifically assembled for the purpose.

Mr. Stevenson, CE, who had drawn up the plans and laid out the line, gave evidence regarding the route and particulars as to estimate. This close[d] the case for the promoters.

Mr. Roche, QC, for the opposing ratepayers, contended that the proceedings before the grand jury showed that a great uncertainty prevailed regarding the desirability of this scheme. Twenty-three grand jurors had at one meeting refused to pass the scheme unless a ten years’ guarantee was given, and at a subsequent and a smaller meeting this resolution had been set aside.

The Lord Chancellor said they had nothing whatever to do with that circumstance now. It was sufficient for the committee that the grand jury had passed the scheme, and their business now was simply and solely to inquire into the merits and see if they could recommend it to the Lord Lieutenant for approval.

Mr. Roche, QC, continuing, stated that the figures given regarding the traffic were not strictly correct, but were based on wrong assumptions.

Mr. Smith, JP, was called in support of the appeal, and stated that he had land in the district the valuation of which was £459. He had a memorial against the scheme signed largely by farmers representing land to the amount of £15,817 valuation. Speaking as a farmer, he did not believe the line would pay. The Midleton board of guardians on two occasions dissented to the proposition as well as the Town Commissioners.

Cross-examined by Mr. Atkinson–He was not in a position to contradict the statement that with but the exception of three guardians–one of whom was himself–all the guardians representing the taxed area had assented. The memorial was signed after a statement by witness that the county cess would be increased if the line was constructed. The statement was not a conditional one.

Mr. Dennis McCarthy, shopkeeper, Midleton, presented a memorial signed by appellants representing £2,647 valuation in Midleton.

The committee adjourned at this state till half past eleven o’clock to-morrow morning. (1)

The Morning News, Belfast, 7th August 1884

The division that existed in the area surrounding the tramway was typified by the note in the Cork Examiner of 28th June 1884, which notified that readers that “in consequence of a meeting having been called in Cloyne for Tuesday, July 1st, on the above tramway, the meeting of cesspayers in opposition to same, will be held in the Courthouse, Midleton, on Thursday, July 3rd, at 12 o’Clock, which all cesspayers from the proposed area of taxation would find it to their interest to attend.” (2)

Though the tramway was never constructed, plans do appear to have been drawn up, which would be fascinating to see. We hope to do more research into this– if any readers have any more detail on the proposed scheme we would love to hear from you.

(1) The Morning News, (Belfast) 7th August 1884; (2) The Cork Examiner, 28th June 1884;

Image Credit: National Library of Ireland Flickr Page

Categories: Nineteenth Century | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “The Midleton and Cloyne Tramway, 1884

  1. I can understand the anxiety over the rates, but surely the summer beach crowds from Cork might have been lucrative, not to mention the fish shipped from Ballycotton to Midleton and Cork!

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